Compression Aesthetics: Glitch From the Avant-Garde to Kanye West

Carolyn L. Kane In a world that esteems technological efficiency, immediacy, and control, the advent of technical noise, glitch, and failure—no matter how colorful or disturbingly beautiful—are avoided at great costs. When distorted and unintelligible artifacts emerge within the official domains of “immersive” consumer experience, they are quickly banished from sight. This aggressive disavowal is particularly strange given that “glitch art” and “compression aesthetics”—loosely defined as the aesthetic use of visual artifacts, accidents, or technical errors—has become increasingly prevalent in media, art, design, and commercial landscapes.1 Why and how have glitch aesthetics achieved this ambivalent status? There is something about a glitch or patch of noise that disrupts convention and expectation. A glitch or technical error can be used to pose questions and open up critical spaces in new and unforeseen ways. Herein lies the appeal of glitch to numerous artists past and present, and my primary concern in this article. And yet, because glitches have also been quickly appropriated back into dominant fashions and styles, moving from political or social critique to commodity, glitch aesthetics bear … Continue reading Compression Aesthetics: Glitch From the Avant-Garde to Kanye West